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One-On-One With DNC Chair Jaime Harrison; With COVID Cases Rising, Should Americans Mask Up? Audio Refutes Ramaswamy's Claim About 9/11 Quote. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 23, 2023 - 07:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Respond to the debate tonight. The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison -- there he is. He'll tell us, next.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But this shouldn't be a virtue-signaling pissing contest as to what people agree on issues. I think we should smoke out, in the open, the areas where we do disagree.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most people aren't even paying attention yet, so we're going to earn it in the state of Iowa.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will be a job fair on the stage in the debate rather than to be a place where the truth is told, honest differences are aired out, and the public can make an informed decision.

ASA HUTCHINSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the best advice I've ever got on a debate preparation is don't make it boring.


BLACKWELL: All right. Tonight, eight Republican candidates will try to do that -- not to make it boring -- without Donald Trump, the frontrunner there. They'll take the stage in Milwaukee. But the Democratic National Committee and President Biden's reelection campaign -- they hope to provide some counterprogramming. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like Joe Biden understands people like me.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of the things that Biden fought to get passed helped the middle class. Wages are going up around here. The people that I deal with on a day-to-day basis -- they're getting a pay raise.

What President Biden has accomplished is actually helping real people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: That ad is part of a larger $25 million television and digital blitz highlighting the president's handling of the economy.

Joining us now, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison. Good to see you, sir.

So let's start here with what this ad campaign is aiming to accomplish.

JAIME HARRISON, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, first and foremost, it's setting the contrast between the two parties right now. You know, this contest in 2024 is really going to be a battle between hope versus fear, unity versus division, clarity versus chaos. And we will see that on the stage tonight with all of the Republicans that are running for president. They are running to be the most extreme. Running to be Trump-like in many ways.


And so, that contrast is stark between who Joe Biden is. Joe Biden believes that our better days are ahead of us and not behind us. The Republicans believe that our best days are behind us. And so, we are going to paint that picture.

Tonight -- folks, get your popcorn. It's going to be a circus.

BLACKWELL: All right, so let's talk about the economic message that's mentioned in that ad. A CNN poll from earlier this month shows that despite some of the positive narratives that are in these ads and actual changes in the economy, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the way that the president is handling the economy. His campaign, thus far, has focused on the economy. It does not appear to work. Why?

HARRISON: Well, you've just got to keep going out there making sure that people connect the good things that are going on with the president because they're happening because of his policies.

Consumer confidence is up. Job satisfaction is up. Unemployment at a record low right now. We just heard that the head of the Steel Association talked about a manufacturing renaissance like he's never seen before in this country. And that is all because of the policies of Joe Biden. That's all because of Bidenomics.

And so, we just have to make sure that we're constantly going out there so the American people can see the good things that are happening in the communities -- the infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, the lead pipes that are being pulled up --


HARRISON: -- and connect that with the person who actually got it done, which was Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and our Democrats in the House and the Senate. BLACKWELL: You talk about the things that are going up. Gas prices are going up 25 cents over the last month -- a nickel off the price about a year ago. The mortgage rates are going up -- 20-year high. More than a 20-year high.

And the administration and the party did such a good job of explaining several years ago about how that's outside of the president's control, right? We get that, but this is what people feel.

Is there a vulnerability in tying the president's reelection campaign -- fusing his name with economics when so many people feel so sourly about the economy? Is that a vulnerability for the president?

HARRISON: Well, it's not a vulnerability, Victor, in that -- because what we have seen over time is -- and we see this in contrast to every other major global country in the world that America is, again, at the head of the line.

We fight back -- we have fought back on inflation because of the Inflation Reduction Act, we have seen a precipitous drop in terms of inflation in this country.

And so, every economic measure out there shows that we're not going into a recession. We are roaring back into the -- into the future on this economic message.

And so we're going to keep going at it. We're going to keep constructing more roads and more bridges. We're going to keep employing people, making sure that they have good-paying union jobs; not just the minimum wage jobs that Republicans want to restrict the American people to.

And at the end of the day, the American people will see that there's one party that is fighting for them and there's one party that is fighting just for themselves -- for their own power.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the other big story -- stories of the day, and this is related to the former president and these indictments.

Part of the case that President Biden has taken to the American people over his campaign and the first several years of this administration has been about the crucial and critical inflection point at America's democracy that the country finds itself.

Let's listen to the president. This is Philadelphia in 2022.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can we are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy. There are far more Americans -- far more Americans from every background and belief who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.


BLACKWELL: We understand the delicate balance. He is running against Donald Trump, right, and he doesn't want to feed into that narrative of using the DOJ as a political persecution.

But how do you balance that with abandoning the argument that he took to the American people about the importance of rejecting another Donald Trump term? How does he find that balance? If he's not going to talk about it, does he fall into the same position as the Republican primary opponents where they stay away from it, too?


HARRISON: Well, what the president is running against isn't Donald Trump, but MAGA extremism. That's what he's running against. He's running against this extremism in this party that we've seen the Republican Party that is celebrating people like Putin. That is making sure that we're -- that they're gutting voting rights. He's voting -- and he's fighting back against this extremism that we see in the Republican Party that believe that the rule of law doesn't apply to everybody.

And so, we're going to continue to head down and focus on the -- painting the contrast. Because regardless if it's Donald Trump who ends up being the Republican nominee, or Nikki Haley, or Vivek, or Tim Scott, or Chris Christie --


HARRISON: -- they are all extreme. All of the apples in that bag are rotten and we need to make sure that the American people understand that. We believe --

BLACKWELL: All right.

HARRISON: -- in more freedoms and rights for the American people; not rolling back those freedoms and rights that we've fought so hard in order to gain in this country.

BLACKWELL: Jaime Harrison, thank you so much.

HARRISON: Thank you, Victor. Take care.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there's new reporting just into CNN. Trump co-defendant Rudy Giuliani and several others are expected to surrender today at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia. This is according to multiple sources. Of course, Giuliani is among the 19 charged in the scheme to try to overturn the 2020 election.

Zachary Cohen is outside of that jail in Fulton County. This is a big development because as of last night, Rudy Giuliani didn't even have a lawyer in Georgia to handle this.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Poppy. It seems things have moved pretty quickly on the Rudy Giuliani front. We're now learning that he not only plans to come to Georgia and to meet with District Attorney Fani Willis, but he also plans to surrender today. He wants to do it all in one go. And sources are telling me and our colleague Paula Reid that he wants to do so because he wants to get this all done before Donald Trump comes to town.

Now, this is unusual -- the getting it all done in one day is unusual because most co-defendants have spread out this process over two days. They've negotiated their bond agreement one day and then turned themselves in the next. Rudy Giuliani seems to be a little bit of an exception in that regard.

But he's not the only one we expect to surrender to the Fulton County Jail today. We're learning that Trump -- former Trump official Mike Roman, who was also charged in this indictment -- he's expected to surrender. And several others who negotiated their bond agreement yesterday could show up at the courthouse -- or at the jail today.

HARLOW: OK. Zachary, thank you for the update. We'll watch for that.

COVID numbers are going up. You've probably seen a lot more people around with masks on. Is it necessary to mask again? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is next.



HARLOW: With COVID cases rising, some people are masking up. You've probably seen that in your neighborhood, work, et cetera. What does it mean for you, and what does it mean for people at higher risk of severe illness?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us with more. I keep thinking this when I see people with masks on. Am I making a mistake? What should I do? What should we do?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN HOST, CHASING LIFE PODCAST, AUTHOR, "KEEP SHARP" AND "WORLD WAR C": Yeah. Well, let me give you the good news first. I mean, if you look at the country as a whole -- you look at the map of the country and look at the CDC recommendations, most of the country is considered low-risk right now. It's mostly green. You have a few spots of yellow and a couple of spots maybe of orange where it's high-risk. But green means there's low hospital admission rates, which is really the criteria that they're looking for whether or not we should go back to masking.

So let me just sort of break that down for you. If you're in a green area it means the recommendation is not necessarily that you need to mask, but you still can mask for the points that you pointed out, Poppy, if you're going to -- if you're a high risk or you're going to be around high-risk people.

I recently visited my parents, for example, in Florida. I wore a mask. I tested ahead of time to try and keep them safe.

If you're in one of the lower categories, then depending on what you're doing exactly, there may be situations where you need to mask as well.

So that is sort of where we are. We're at an inflection point, I think, right now. We talked to a lot of the experts that you guys know over the years. Peter Hotez, for example. He said he's gone back to masking. Michael Osterholm said he's probably about to start masking. Jonathan Reiner made an interesting point. He said President Biden should probably be masking because he is 80 years old, so he's considered at higher risk.

But I think we're at this inflection point. Numbers have been going up.


GUPTA: The weather is going to get cooler and drier and they're probably going to go up a little bit more. Obviously, if you've tested positive, if you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19, those are other situations where you should mask.

BLACKWELL: Sanjay, you mentioned testing and we got used to testing. It's been a while. I went and checked and my test date expired, so I guess I need to get some new ones.

How should we be using these tests? And do they work against these new variants?

GUPTA: Yeah. Let me make this as clear as possible. If you have some reason for suspicion -- you've been exposed, you're feeling symptoms, you should test.

And the way to test is that you should do a test and then wait 48 hours and then test again. That would be the ideal way to do things. Why? Because it can take some time for the virus to actually develop a load that's high enough to test. Sometimes people get that first test and think they're in the clear. That may not be the cast.

Quickly, on your second point, Victor, there's a lot of mutations in these new variants so people say well, will the old tests still work? A lot of the mutations -- they occur around the spike protein -- something that people know about. But the tests are actually testing for a different protein within the virus and that protein typically is pretty stable.

So the bottom line is those old tests should still work against these new variants. A really important point, Victor. They're hard to -- harder -- you know, there's not as many tests out there and you've got to pay for them nowadays, but they still work and people should test, especially as we go into the cooler and drier weather.

BLACKWELL: All right, and check those expiration dates, too, on those tests.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. HARLOW: Vivek Ramaswamy told our Kaitlan Collins that his comments about The Atlantic -- to The Atlantic about 9/11 were misquoted. Well, The Atlantic released the audiotape of the interview and we have a fact-check of all of it ahead.

BLACKWELL: And we're waiting to see Rudy Giuliani leave his New York City apartment before he heads to Fulton County, Georgia where we've learned he's expected to surrender today. More coverage after this.



BLACKWELL: Newly released audio refutes claims from Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, who told CNN that The Atlantic misquoted his comments about 9/11.


Our Kaitlan Collins pressed Ramaswamy on this quote from the article published on Monday. Here it is.

"I think it is legitimate to say how many police, how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers. Maybe the answer is zero. It probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero. But if we're doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11 -- we have a 9/11 commission -- absolutely, that should be an answer the public knows the answer to."

Ramaswamy told Kaitlan that's not what he said.

CNN's Daniel Dale joins us live from Washington this morning. So, Daniel, we've got some answers now about this, right?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: We do, and the answer is that he was not misquoted at all.

So let's go through what happened. Ramaswamy first told Kaitlan that he had actually said something else to The Atlantic -- that he thinks there were lots of federal agents in the field during the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot. And also, that he believes the federal government initially lied in denying a Saudi intelligence role in the 9/11 attacks.

But none of that obviously explained why The Atlantic had this particular quote you just read about police and federal agents possibly being on the planes hijacked on 9/11, so Kaitlan pressed him on that -- listen.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS": But are you telling me that your quote is wrong here? Because --

RAMASWAMY: I'm telling you the quote is wrong, actually. COLLINS: -- it says how many federal agents --

RAMASWAMY: I am, actually.

COLLINS: -- were on the planes that hit --

RAMASWAMY: I actually asked --

COLLINS: -- the Twin Towers.

RAMASWAMY: Yeah. When I -- when I actually -- and this is just lifting the curtain on how media works again. I asked that reporter to send the recording because it was on the record. He refused to do it. But we had a free-flowing conversation. The truth is there are lies the government has told about 9/11 but it's not the ones that somebody put in my mouth.


DALE: So, The Atlantic came out and said he wasn't misquoted, so we had a he said-she said kind of scenario for a bit. But then, yesterday afternoon, The Atlantic released the audio recording, which proved that Ramaswamy was quoted accurately and had nothing put in his mouth. The only thing, in fact, that The Atlantic left out of that quote about 9/11 was an irrelevant five-word stray fraction of a sentence that he started but did not finish -- listen.


RAMASWAMY: I think it is legitimate to say how many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers. Like, I think we want -- maybe the answer is zero. It probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero. But if we're doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11 -- we have a 9/11 commission -- absolutely, that should be an answer the public knows the answer to."


DALE: So absolutely not a misquote.

HARLOW: It was -- it was fascinating listening to that. It was about 4 1/2 minutes of audio of this back-and-forth that The Atlantic released. And important to have that transparency. I think it will probably come up in the debate tonight.

But I want to know what you heard from Ramaswamy's campaign team when you reached out to them on all of this.

DALE: Yeah. So they're changing their tune but also simultaneously claiming vindication.


DALE: Instead of claiming he was misquoted the response was that, quote, "The audio clearly demonstrates that Vivek was taken badly out of context and even this small snippet proves that." They also said they want The Atlantic to release even more of the audio.

But the thing is though, guys, the audio The Atlantic did release proves that the article had his quote in context. The article correctly said he was talking about January 6, then pivoted to 9/11, then returned to January 6. So even this campaign statement is nonsense.

HARLOW: Facts matter. Daniel Dale, thank you for the fact-check this morning.

So also this -- a big development this morning. We're waiting to see Rudy Giuliani leave his New York City apartment before he heads to Fulton County, Georgia. So we've just learned in the last few minutes he is expected to surrender there today. Much more on this ahead.